What may have started a simple miscommunication, quickly turned into a social media firestorm, pitting a new business owner against the city of Grove.

On Wednesday, June 14, Cole Bibler posted on multiple sites, including The Grove Sun's Facebook page, asking about his brother's right to fly a flag outside his new business.

"I have recently been informed by a local business, that he is not allowed to fly the American Flag outside his building without paying $50 to the city," Bibler wrote. "Please tell me how flying our nation's flag is not allowed unless we grease the right hands in our city. Grove should be ashamed of themselves."

At issue, Bibler said, is what his brother - Chad - had been told since moving his business, MotoMouth Garage, from rural Fairland into the Grove city limits.

Chad Bibler said conversations with Calvin Igney, the city code inspector, led him to believe that he would be charged $50 per sign or billboard, placed in front of his business.

The sign ordinance, updated June 21, 2016, does indicate a business owner will be charged a one-time permit fee of $50, per sign, as well as establish what is needed to obtain the permit - including the area of the sign, the type of sign being placed, the type and method of illumination, the location of each sign, in relation to the property lines, and written permission of the property owner if the land is not owned by the applicant.

Bibler thought, based on conversations both he and his wife, Brandi Swing-Bibler had with different officials, it would cost him $50 for the permanent sign, and then an additional $50 per flag. 

Bibler said he was shocked to see his brother's post go viral. By Wednesday afternoon, both he and city officials had received numerous calls raising concerns about the issue.

The fact Wednesday, was also Flag Day, appeared to amplify the issue for both sides.

"I was just trying not to stir the pot with the city of Grove," Bibler said. "I want to do what I need to get my business licence."

Flying the flag

Grove City Manager Bill Keefer said there are two issues surrounding the viral post. The first, a building permit, required for new business owners to operate within the city limits. The second, a sign permit, to place signage outside of a business.

Both come with a $50 fee, but neither involve the American Flag. 

"Nobody is regulating their ability to fly the American Flag," Keefer said on Wednesday. "This has never been an issue about the American Flag. We don't regulate where people can fly an American Flag on private property."

Keefer said, he would hope that anyone flying the flag, would follow protocols and etiquette surrounding the proper way for its display.

Section 5-8 of the city's signage ordinance states regulated signs "do not include the pennant, insignia, flag or emblem of any nation, organization of nations, state, city or any religious organization."

A statement, issued late Wednesday by Grove City Attorney Darren Cook, reiterated the point. 

"The allegation that the City of Grove charges people to display the American flag is simply ridiculous and untrue," Cook wrote. "The American flag was never discussed and city staff are completely surprised by this accusation."

Setting up a new business

Bibler said he was simply trying to follow the rules, as he brought his business into the city limits.

"I have a lot of customers in Grove, who can't find me out on Highway 59 and 125," Bibler said. "It's just too fast of a corner there."

THe new location, which is located behind the former Wolf Creek Dinner, also comes with space where Bibler can help teach young riders how to handle their dirt bikes. 

Bibler said when he hung his sign, a sheet of metal with spray painted words, he knew it would be temporary. He said a permanent sign is being made at Signs and Banners in Seneca, Missouri.

After hanging the metal sign, Bibler decided to add some flags to the structure.  

As a former contractor, who served from 2003 to 2004 with Combat Services Associates in Kuwait, Bibler said the flag stands for a multitude of things, including freedom.

"Men and women have lost their life for the country, defending the flag," Bilber said. "We have the right to fly it anywhere."

He wanted to add the medical marijuana flags, because he believes legalizing the drug - like what has been done in neighboring Colorado - could help state officials generate revenue which could in turn help alleviate the state's budget issues.

"I believe it's free speech," Bibler said. "It's  what we believe in as people."

A look a head

Bibler said he still plans to open his business in Grove. Now, to make sure he can fly the medical marijuana flag, he will offer a variety of flags for sale at his business. 

Keefer said if Bibler adds signs to his business, he should be able hang some as part of his advertising. 

He said typically, people who sell flags in Grove are vendors operating on a pedlar's' licence. 

Keefer said, the sign in question will only cost Bibler $50, which includes any flags. 

Bibler said he planned to follow up with city officials to ensure his sign is within code.

On Wednesday afternoon, he rehung the American flags and medical marijuana flags from his sign. For him, the flags remain a symbol his of free speech - as a business owner and American.